THEY are an icon of communication - a reminder of the days when we had to rely on putting coins in a slot to make a call.

Red telephone boxes have gradually been replaced - initially by the modern glazed versions - but even those have now become obsolete as the introduction of mobile technology has taken away the necessity to have them on village greens and street corners.

The phasing out of the traditional red phone boxes has prompted many villagers, particularly those in chocolate box locations where red phone boxes, and even post boxes, often depicted on postcards as communication tools at one time integral to our communities, to retain them for another purpose.

It wasn't so long ago I read an article about a village retaining their red phone box as a mini library - and it seems this innovative purpose is quickly catching on.

Sitting very pretty on the green within the village of Hunsworth, near Cleckheaton, two icons of communication stand side by side in solidarity.

The red phone box, and its neighbour the red post box, are evidently defiant against the technological changes that have been introduced, the likes of email which have lightened the postmen and women's loads and, mobile phones and other gadgetry which control our daily lives.

Their purpose is still plentiful in these parts, for while this village is far from remote being a few short miles from the neighbouring market town of Cleckheaton, part of its population will find such services useful to have just a few strides from their own front doors.

According to Paula McDonald, who along with fellow villager, Janice Barlow, were instrumental in adopting the phone box through BT's Adopt a Kiosk scheme, explains they have already had more than 300 people comment positively about the book exchange through the social media site, Welcome to Hunsworth.

Paula, who along with Janice are members of the Hunsworth Community centre committee where Janice is manager of the village playgroup, explains she spotted a notice on the phone box saying it may be taken away - but the community could look at adopting it.

The phone box has had a presence on the village Green for many years and residents didn't want to part with it so Paula and Janice came up with a plan to bring it back into use for the community.

Hunsworth Community Centre succeeded in their application to adopt the box prompting the start of the refurbishment project.

Paula explains her partner Philip Smith re-painted it and reinforced the wooden door which had become warped over time.

Together they built and installed shelves and Paula created the bunting and Janice penned the poems adorning this quirky and cosy space which is brimming with all kinds of wonderful reads for all ages.

The women were keen to retain the phone box for the local community and stumbled on the idea to bring it back into purpose as a book exchange after seeking ideas through the internet.

"There are quite a lot up and down the country," says Paula.

She says she is aware of some being turned into coffee shops in London.

For those in the village who are missing the mobile library service which, incidentally, used to stand near the phone box, it provides the opportunity to expand their book collections.

"So many services have stopped," says Paula.

"It keeps it in the community for the older people as well."

Now she says she hopes other people, not just local villagers, will come and use the book exchange and swap their reads.

"We just wanted to make it look nice and it would be nice to see more people come. You don't have to live in the village, anybody can do it," adds Paula.

There are many more other examples of this legend of communication being brought back into a useful purpose.

In Settle, North Yorkshire, the red telephone box that had been in the village for 50 years has been transformed into a mini art gallery.

Legendary Queen guitarist, Brian May, officially opened The Gallery on the Green and, more recently, award-winning artist Tom Palin exhibited there.

A BT spokeswoman explains how the communications company's 'Adopt a Kiosk' scheme began to 'preserve and protect little or unused red payphones.'

Nationally 4,300 kiosks have now been adopted - 72 of those are in West Yorkshire including Bradford; Bingley; Horsforth; Ilkley; Keighley; Menston; Mirfield and Otley.

Says the spokeswoman: "As you can imagine payphone usage is not what it was as 93% of adults now own a mobile phone and 98% of the UK has either 3G or 4G coverage. As a result, usage has declined by over 90 per cent in the last decade and we’ve continued to review and remove payphones which are no longer needed.

She explains the removal of payphones is carried out in strict adherence to Ofcom guidelines and, where appropriate, with the consent of local authorities.

"In all instances where there’s no other payphone within 400 metres, we’ll ask for consent from the local authority to remove the payphone. Where we receive objections from the local authority, we won’t remove the payphone," she says.

Adopt a Kiosk enables a community to retain their red kiosk even though it may not be used or needed as a payphone.

Says the spokesman: "We remove the phone equipment and then the community can put it to whatever use they see fit."

As well as art galleries and libraries, they have been transformed into defibrillator kiosks, as part of a campaign by the Community Heartbeat Trust, public information centres and even a pub!

For more information about adopting a phone box visit

Did you Know?

Most traditional red phone boxes are K6s or 'Jubilee Kiosks' commemorating the Silver Jubilee of the coronation of King George V.

Designer, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, whose work includes Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral, Battersea Power Station and Bankside Power Station (now Tate Modern) designed both types of kiosk.

The K6, made from cast iron and with a teak door, measures 8'3" in height (2.4 metres) and weighs three quarters of a ton (762 kilograms). It was the first installed nationwide and was the standard kiosk across the UK until the introduction of the K8 in 1968.

The K6 design was approved by the Post Office and the Royal Fine Arts Commission who endorsed 'Post Office red' as the standard colour. Although Scott agreed to the use of 'Post Office red' he was never a supporter of the colour, initially suggesting the outside of the kiosk be painted silver and the inside greenish-blue. He strongly urged rural kiosks be painted dove-grey.

Introduced in 1927, the K4 was intended to be a 24-hour post office with a stamp machine and letterbox added to the back. It was nicknamed the Vermillion Giant, and was apparently a fantastic failure with only 50 produced.

In 1934, a K5 was produced, made of plywood as a temporary kiosk for use at events like exhibitions and fairs.

When problems occurred with the K3, a new cast iron box was needed. So in 1936, the K6 appeared for the first time on the streets. The kiosk had all the good points of the K1 and K3, mixed with the solid build of the K2— and most importantly, the small size and elegance the Post Office were looking for. The K6 was widely used to replace K1s and K3s.

In the 1960's the Post Office were considering a new design, and Neville Conder's design for a K7 was chosen. It was made in aluminium and was tested in 1962. However, The K7 wasn’t adopted as a new design, and only five were made.

In 1965, another competition was held to design a new kiosk — the K8. Bruce Martin was the winning architect, and his design appeared in 1968. It was a very new design to the previous ones — the main differences were the replacement of the glazing bars with one big window on each side of the kiosk and the replacement of the domed roof with a flatter design. Nearly 4,000 K8s appeared, some of which replaced K6s. Vandalism was always a problem with telephone boxes, and during the 1970s British Telecom made another modification to the K6, removing many of their glazing bars for a single piece of glass like the K8.